Monday 28 December 2020

Christmas Games

 This year Christmas has been particularly confusing, trying to sort out who we can meet, who we can visit, who we have to avoid, etc. Normally it has been a case of getting everybody together at the same time, taking it in turns as to which abode we visit. This year was to have been our daughters turn, but if we went then our son would not be able to take his family, so we compromised by having his two (boy 13 and girl 5) for a few hours before the day while the parents went shopping.

Normally we play a family board game, such as Cluedo, Scrabble, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders; something for the adults but mainly the children. This year computers, Ipads, and other electronic things prevailed, but to get the two grandchildren away from temptation MrsJ found, at the top of the wardrobe, a game we used to play with our own.

"Take The Brain" is a simple (hah!) board game from the early 1970s, and is similar to chess but with only three types of piece. There are Numbskulls that can only move one space, Ninnys that can move unlimited spaces in a straight line, and a Brain (basically the King) who again can only move one space. The object is to 'kill' your opposition brain by occupying his square.

You may think it easy, but - each square has a number of arrows on it, pointing in various different positions. Some straight, others diagonal, and you can only move a piece in the direction one of the arrows is pointing!! Some forward thinking is involved, and you have to keep an eye on the squares occupied by enemy pieces as well as your own; you may end up thinking yourself safe, but in line from an enemy piece on the other side of the board.

We ran through the game once with our two (5 and 13, remember) once and then the older one played me. I beat him the first time but was soundly trounced the second * (the crys of "I beat grandad" echoed round the house}. After that they both played it non-stop, enjoying it as much as each other. So much so that they've borrowed the game to take home. 

Unfortunately the game is no longer produced, and I only found two for sale on that auction website, for over £30 each. If you can find a copy anywhere, I recommend it. 

* I was so busy concentrating on my plan that I missed one of his Ninnys with direct route to my Brain.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Seasons Greetings - 2020

 Hasn't this been a peculiar year? Most of us spending a great deal of it trying to keep away from people and being really anti social. One would think that our hobby activities would conquer all, but that doesn't appear to be the case on my part. I seem to have done less rather than more. Loads of 28mm soldiers remain unpainted, the various 54mm figures I'd planned to complete remain in their packets, three model railways (of various scales and gauges) seem frozen in progress and the garage workbench has gathered a layer of dust. Personally I blame MrsJ. She retired at the beginning of the year and keeps finding things to 'keep her occupied', trouble is they usually involve me too. So the days disappear, one by one.

I've made a positive resolution that for 2021 I shall escape to the garage or shed on a daily basis for a couple of hours, even if it only involves a bit of tinkering. My list of 'things I'd like to make' is yards long, the wood has been maturing for a few years now, and I have to prove to MrsJ that the tools in the garage are used, contrary to her belief that, just because I don't use them all regularly I don't need them is erroneous. The mortice drill, beading plane, router and planer may not come out every day, but they all have their special times.

In the meantime, I managed to throw together the header picture as a sort of Christmas card for this year. Normally the doctor would go out and about with us on our caravan trips, but he hasn't had a chance this year. 

Merry Christmas everybody, stay safe, As the Chinese saying goes "This, too, will pass"

Tuesday 8 December 2020

What to do on moving day?

 After spending twenty odd years in our current home, and letting everything settle comfortably around us, MrsJ has announced that sometime next year she wants us to move some thirty odd miles to be nearer daughter and grandchildren. As said daughter has also approved of the idea I'm on to a losing battle to stay here. Now, moving means considerable upheaval, especially for those of us who have numerous miniatures to move. I have soldiers, in various scales, model railway bits and pieces, a shed full of modelling materials and a garage full of woodworking tools, plus a fairly large library. 

I would like to receive suggestions on how to pack my mini armies to avoid damage. Which type of box and how to wrap (tissue, cotton wool, bubble wrap) in order to let them be lugged around leaving me piece of mind. For those of you who may have done this recently, how did you do it?

Thankfully nothing will happen too soon, though I have been shown a number of properties on the market as MrsJ browses the internet of an evening. Mind you, I'd better finish painting the figures that are on the table at the moment! 

Monday 23 November 2020

Ancestry - early days

 Finally, after quite a few letters (e-mails really, but I still think of them as letters) I've managed to obtain my Great Grandfather's service record from his time in the Royal Marine Artillery. All I have to do now is work out how to read it as it is in beautiful copperplate handwriting and some of it barely decipherable.

As far as I can tell at a quick glance he enlisted in 1881, when he was 19 years old, and was invalided out in 1896 when he was 33. During that time he met my Great Grandmother (1884) and my grandmother was born in Portsea, Portsmouth in 1892. He died in Spalding, Lincolnshire in 1901 very young and very suddenly, as there was an inquest held. That's my next job, find out how and why.

Once I've finished with him I have two grandfathers to chase up, both serving in WW1, and I already nhave my father's records from his time in WW2 when he served the whole period on the flower class corvette, "HMS Pennywort", pootling backwards and forwards across the Atlantic with a foray to the Normandy beaches. For those interested, HMS Pennywort features in Martin Middlebrook's book, Convoy. Unfortunately my father was due to be interviewed by him but died before it could happen.

This family tree stuff is intriguing. Reference my Great Grandfather again, he died as I said in 1901, but his widow had two children after that, the last in 1905! I wonder if they knew?


Sunday 1 November 2020

Here We Go Again!

 Well, here we are going into lockdown again for (at least) a month. Good job MrsJ and I have just done our monthly shop (think we are alright for toilet rolls and flour). Took a trip to the library as well, stocked up with reading material so we should be covered. I recently discovered M.C.Beaton's 'Hamish Macbeth' stories so I'm working my way through those, and I've started on the Perry Mason books which I get on my Kindle reading device. They should keep me going. Another series that I recommend is by Mick Herron, and concerns a group of washed up, disgraced and embarrasing (to their chiefs) spies from the intelligence service. 

Having, in one way or another, blotted their copy books (or in one case being framed as having done so) this varied group of misfits is seconded to an annexe called Slough House, where they are given menial and meaningless tasks in the hopes that they will get fed up and resign. The first of the novels is called Slow Horses, a play on the address  and what the service calls them. There are a number of other titles, some only short novellas, and they need to be read in order, as the author ,Nick Herron, has no qualms about killing off major characters along the way.

Definitely not the romantic vision of a spy, I recommend them for a long dark evening. 

Back to military matters next time, photos still in the camera. 

Saturday 24 October 2020

A Long Term Winter Project

 Having persuaded myself that it is too cold in the shed to do much railway modelling I have looked back into batch of kits I bought from my project book to find something to occupy myself indoors over the winter months. Among my old ideas is a collection of 54mm conversions from old Britains figures, depicting the various Victorian Rifle Volunteer and Yeomanry regiments of the UK. This will be on top of the pile of kits I have outstanding from the Tradition range.

In order to get on with it I took the plunge and ordered a mould making pack from Alec Tiranti. It will sit staring at me daring me to get on with the job.

So, I took a figure I bought cheap some years ago at the London Toy Soldier Show, and stripped it down. Once the paint was off it became obvious that it was a conversion, so I didn't feel too bad about removing the paint. The gaiters had been filled in to make full trousers, while a new head had been fitted.

Once stripped I removed the original base and stuck the casting onto a 2p piece, filling the face and smoothing it off (can't have the origin showing) and the figure is ready for the mould making experience.

Once moulded and cast it will give me a nice basic figure to build up the equipment and so forth. I will be able to rebuild the trousers for those figures that require them and I can fit any of an assortment of headgear required. According to my references these vary from the standard rifles shako through pill box hats to a Bersagliari style hat. 

I already have a few figures made from the Fort Henry Guard, and that figure will appear again. Possibly with different heads.

That's the start of things. I'm currently painting a sample figure for a new unit, watch this space for pictures when it's ready. Mind you, it's half term next week, and grandchildren sitting (their hardly babies now) takes precedence. I'll also pop down my thoughts on cavalry figures to come. 

Friday 16 October 2020

Forthcoming Auction.

 For my sins (I once put some toy soldiers into one of their sales) I receive occasional updates from the auction house Vectis, who specialise in toys and related ephemera. The latest, which arrived in my inbox today, has a collection of fire engines (Oct 20th), Matchbox and modern die-cast (Oct 22nd), model trains (Oct 23rd) and on October 27th; a sale of 'books and works on paper'.

A quick look shows that this includes  Science fiction and fantasy, Israel history and culture, space, humour and cartoon books - and military history. The latter has some 30 lots (I may have miscounted) and if you are interested in seeing what is on offer (with initial price guides) you can go to the Vectis website, find the appropriate forthcoming auction then look at the section of interest. Here you will get a picture of each lot, normally in cardboard boxes that don't appear to be too specific in selection. An enlargement view lets you investigate some of the titles and conditions. I did notice and box labelled as from the collection of Andrew Rose (those of us of an age will recognise the name from the toy soldier world). 

I had a good look round the lots, and saw some books of interest to me, but they were mixed with others I don't need. Also, MrsJ tells me I have too many books, so I won't be bidding.

Have a good browse, it might give you ideas on the worth of your own collection.

Sunday 11 October 2020

New Moulds

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I ordered the new 'Great Powers' moulds of American and German toy soldiers from Prince August. These arrived a few days ago and I've had a little practice. I must apologise for the picture quality, but they were taken on my workbench in the garage and I forgot to turn the flash on!

box top of the USA set

contents of the USA set. three moulds plus a coloured picture

contents of the German set. three moulds and diagram (no coloured picture this time

first pouring from the German mould. I really messed up here, as I forgot to put the little rods (supplied) in place that would ensure neck holes for the head would be pre-cast. Also, the face came out with no definition, looking a bit like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films. No doubt I'll get it right eventually.

I shall persevere sometime this coming week, but Julia has to go into hospital for a colonoscopy/endoscopy tomorrow and we're not sure what the outcome will be. 

More later. Keep safe and well.  


Wednesday 7 October 2020

Enquiry about Mould firm

 Just a quick enquiry. I'm after some 54mm moulds that were available last year from a firm called Miniature Molds. Their internet existence seems to have disappeared. Can anyone say if they are still trading or changed name? If so can I have contact details.

I'm after some of their British Napoleonic moulds, which look like Airfix figures, so they may have had copyright problems. I know, back in the day, I got permission from Airfix to do recasts, but they have changed hands since and, although I still have the authorisation letter, the new owners may not look kindly, even though I only want them for personal use. My old moulds have deteriorated and been disposed of and I don't need the hassle of making new ones.

Thanks for any help you can give. It is appreciated.

Wednesday 30 September 2020

The old and the new

 Just to show that I have shaken of my lethargy I'm showing a couple of photos I took today. First up I have a model from my display cabinet that I made many years ago from an old 'Men at Arms' kit. It is of a US cavalryman in full dress uniform. What I found interesting about the figure was that it was of a coloured conscript. Not something normally seen. Though quite why he should be stood in front of Orford Castle I have no idea. Please ignore the date (if I don't mention it someone will!) but it seems I need to reset my camera.

I'm really putting it up as a tribute to MGB's blog, Wargaming with 54mm toy soldiers.

Second up is a figure cobbled together from assorted Langley castings and is supposed to represent a trooper from the North Suffolk Hussars. Hopefully the precursor of others, as I have a few of these bits and pieces, and my 'go to' reference book shows a variety of similar uniforms in various colour schemes.

That's it for now, have fun, stay safe.

Thursday 24 September 2020

Getting back in the saddle?

I admit, I have been very lax in keeping up with my blogs lately. This is partly because not much has been going on as it was far too hot this summer, and partly interest dwindled to very low levels. All the figures waiting in my 'to do' list sat gathering dust while paints hardened in the tin. Then tonight I received a promotional e-mail from Prince August, the Irish toy soldier mould people, giving news of a couple of sets issued in their new sub-section 'Great Powers of the 1900s'.

First up is a set of Germans, illustrated here'

While second we have a set of infantry from the USA.

As I was being offered a discount I ordered one of each. When they arrive I hope to have a little play with them. I wonder how they fit with the British Guard moulds already on hand, and whether  I will be able to Mix 'n match parts. Hopefully I'll be able to show you in a few weeks time. Interest is aroused again. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

What do you wear when gaming?

While not being very active on the gaming front at the moment I do tend to keep up with my blog reading list, just to see what's going on and make the odd comment. It is interesting to see how frequent (or infrequent) some writers are. In the meantime I also check my facebook page daily, trying to ignore the various extraneous items that pop up, but one couldn't be resisted. Why the gods of facebook decided it would interest me I don't know, but here are some details.

The particular entry concerned a range of decorated T-shirts, and comes from America. The website is and they produce, among other items, T-shirts styled as military uniforms, varying from medieval to modern. The picture below is of their take on Nelson. As they are priced in US dollars I'm not sure how they cost out in the UK, but that can be discovered easily enough.

So now you can dress in the style of your game!, enjoy your browse of the site.

Thursday 13 February 2020

R.I.P. Roy Dilley

I have just received a message from Paul Vickers, President of the British Model Soldier Society, that Roy Dilley, doyen of Model Soldier collectors everywhere, has passed away. I am sure that other bloggers will detail his life, times and accomplishments but I'd just like to record that it was Roy, along with Henry Harris, that set me on the route to conversion of 54mm figures.

It was Roy's articles in Airfix Magazine, converting Almark and Airfix figures into troop types I would never have thought of, and his book "Scale Model Soldiers" of 1972, that gave me so much inspiration. Unfortunately I could never emulate his expertise but I kept trying.

So another of the old stagers has gone, and will be missed.